Superstar

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Even fans of the Mary Katherine Gallagher skits on Saturday Night Live will find this movie overlong at 82 minutes. It is one thing for a 30-something woman to play the part of a high school girl in a skit, but another to watch her try to act the part of a high school girl in a movie, even one as plotless as this one.

Mary Katherine (Molly Shannon) has one dream — she wants to be passionately kissed. While she waits, she practices on whatever is available, including a tree and a stop sign. Ultimately, she becomes a little more specific in her dream. She wants to be kissed by high school dream date Sky (Will Farrell, also from Saturday Night Live). And she decides that since he is going steady with pretty cheerleader Evian (Elaine Hendrix, repeating her meanie role from “The Parent Trap”) the only way to get his attention is to become a superstar. And she thinks she can do that by winning the Catholic Teen Magazine VD Awareness Talent Contest. Other attempts at humor include a boy with obsessive-compulsive disorder, a television falling on a dog, an Irish step-dancing tragedy, and repeated falling down and showing of the world’s whitest cotton underpants.

Younger teens will get a kick out of the naughty words and slapstick humor and may even relate to Mary Katherine’s struggle to become someone who is admired while staying true to herself. Any older folks who wander in by mistake may enjoy some references to old movies, especially Made-for-TV classics like “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.” And families might take this opportunity to talk about the careless cruelty and need to conform of many high school students, and Mary Katherine’s growing understanding that “you have to be your own rainbow” and that what matters is what she thinks about herself, not what Sky thinks about her. But parents should know that there are a number of raunchy references and a portrayal of Mary Katherine’s vision of Jesus that may be offensive to some viewers.

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Comedy High School

10 Things I Hate About You

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Bianca, a beautiful high school sophomore, longs for a social life. But her father will not let her date until her older sister Kat does. Sound familiar? This is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” set in a Tacoma, Washington high school. The movie benefits from appealing performers and some genuinely fresh and funny dialogue, but parents should know that it contains a good bit of material that may be inappropriate for younger teens.

Commedian Larry Miller is terrific as the girls’ father, overprotective because their mother abandoned the family and because as an obstetrician he sees too many pregnant teenagers. But the teachers in the movie are more juvenile than the kids, including a guidance counselor more concerned with writing a very steamy novel than with the behavior and well-being of the students, an English teacher who insults the kids and is arbitrary with discipline, and a soccer coach who is all but comatose at the sight of a girl’s breasts, which she flashes to distract him from a boy’s escape from detention.

Parents should also know that there are a great many references to sex, even by the standards of teen comedies, and especially a number of references to male genitalia, including a boy who draws a picture on the face of another and a boy who pretends to expose himself in the lunchroom, using a bratwurst, as well as the usual teen references to who has “done it.” There is a wild party, with teen drinking and smoking, and brief references to drug use. The scene mentioned above, in which a girl bears her breasts to a teacher, is worth discussing.

On the positive side, the heroines demonstrate a very healthy attitude and strong self-esteem, defending their hearts and their bodies very capably. One admits to having had a bad sexual experience in 9th grade, then deciding she was not ready for sexual involvement, and learning to think for herself in the future. And when one of the characters decides to drink tequila at a party, she ends up dancing in an embarassing fashion and then throwing up in front of the boy she likes.

Kids who enjoy this movie should watch the video of The Taming of the Shrewstarring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The many parallels will make them appreciate this version even more.

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Based on a play High School

Detroit Rock City

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

This movie follows four high school boys who are die-hard KISS fans in spite of the overwhelming popularity of disco and the objections of the adults (“KISS stands for Knights In Satan’s Service!”) as they do everything they can think of to get seats to the concert in Detroit. There is little originality, wit, or credibility in the script, but in its own way it is genial and unpretentious and ultimately more winning than some recent overly focus-grouped big studio releases.

One of the mothers burns their tickets and carts her son Jam (Sam Huntington) off to a Catholic boarding school that looks like it was dreamed up by Charles Addams. The other three have to figure out a way to spring him and to find four new tickets so they can see the show. This involves taking another mother’s Volvo, feeding hallucinogenic mushroom pizza to a priest, entering a male stripper contest, foiling two separate robberies, stopping to have sex (one couple loses their virginity in a confessional), sneaking backstage, beating up some disco fans, getting beat up by various other people and by each other, and eventually making it into the sanctum sanctorum of the KISS live performance.

Much of the humor in the film will be lost on people who don’t know every KISS lyric and remember the KISS comic with the band’s blood mixed into the red ink. And it is something of a valentine to sex, drugs, and rock and roll, to say nothing of lying, cheating, stealing, destroying property, and cutting school. Furthermore, it is very much a male fantasy movie, with four teen-age boys triumphing over huge bad guys and winning over beautiful women. It also includes one of the key cliches of the teen movie — the character who has sex for the first time becomes suddenly more mature, braver, wiser, and more powerful. Parents of kids who see this movie may want to discuss these issues.

Most kids will not be interested, however. To the extent that the movie has appeal beyond hardcore KISS fans and those who appreciate the 1970’s references, it is due to its young stars (including Edward Furlong, Natasha Lyonne, and Melanie Lynskey) and the loyalty they show to each other, to their idols, and to their dreams. This lends the movie a welcome sweetness that leaves the audience almost as happy that they make it into the theater as they are.

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Comedy High School

Drive Me Crazy

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

If a sitcom episode from the TGIF line-up was crossed with a commercial from MTV, you’d get this movie, a genial half-hour story stretched out to movie length through the insertion of lots and lots of music for the 11- 16 crowd, who will line up to buy the soundtrack album. It is no coincidence that the name of the movie was changed to the name of Britney Spears’ current hit song.

The plot would fit into an old episode of “Gidget.” High school seniors Nicole (Melissa Joan Hart) and her next-door-neighbor and childhood pal Chase (Adrian Grenier) are now barely speaking. They travel in different crowds. She is filled with team spirit, loves to cheer on the school basketball team, and is working hard to make the school’s 100th anniversary dance a big success. Chase is a rebel, protesting the mindless conformity of his classmates, too cool to support anything at school. When Nicole is unsuccessful in getting basketball star Brian to the big dance, and Chase is dumped by his girlfriend Dulcie for not being as cool as a college boy who is busy protesting the use of animals in lab tests, they agree to pretend to be dating, to see if they can make their respective heartthrobs jealous.

Nicole gives Chase a makeover at Gap, and then they each visit the other’s turf. They are surprised to find themselves enjoying each others’ environments and friends, and enjoying each other. It turns out that they are the ones who get jealous, when Brian and Dulcie take the bait. And their friends, too, learn to judge by appearances.

There is no particular subtlety or insight in the movie, but it is undeniably fun to watch. Grenier, in particular, has real charm (though I preferred his tousled curls to the post-makeover hairstyle). And the movie addresses real issues about the tendency of high school kids to categorize themselves according to clearly defined extremes and to stick with friends who reinforce their interests, attitudes, and appearance.

Parents should know that there is a good deal of drinking by teens in the movie. Both Nicole and Chase react to setbacks by getting drunk at parties. The attitude of the kids in the movie seems to be that as long as they have a designated driver, there is no reason kids should not drink. Nicole is also betrayed by a friend, who tells Brian that he should be interested in her because she is willing to have sex with him. Later, Nicole insults her by calling her “easy.” A drunken boy attempts to force his intentions on a girl, and, when she refuses, he is abusive and insulting. While there are other sexual references, the behavior of the kids is limited to some romantic kissing. Parents may want to discuss the issue of cliques and snobbery in school, the importance of feeling liked for what one considers most important about oneself, the dangers of trying to manipulate others, and the difficulty of living with a single parent. Parents should also warn kids not to follow the example of one character, who arranges a real-life encounter with a cyber-date. It might not turn out as well as the one in the movie.

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High School
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